Memorandum submitted by Foreign and Commonwealth
1. Iran is a country of significant political
and economic importance for the UK because of its influence in
the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, its central strategic
position, and its key role in regional security. Iran has 9 per
cent of world oil reserves and 15 per cent of gas reserves, and
is our fifth largest export market in the Middle East. Its population
(65 million) is the largest of any country in the region.
2. In New York in September 1998 the Foreign
Secretary agreed with his Iranian counterpart to exchange Ambassadors,
following the public assurance by Foreign Minister Kharrazi that
the Iranian Government would not take any action to threaten the
life of Salman Rushdie, and would not encourage anybody to do
so. This paved the way for our current policy of constructive
engagement with Iran. We look to progress towards the establishment
of a civil society with full protection for the rights of minorities.
The emergence of a well-run, diversified and dynamic market economy
should support such progress, and contribute to a healthy bilateral
economic relationship. The benefits of constructive engagement
are reflected in major programmes of cooperation in the field
of drugs and refugees, initiated by the UK in Iran. However, as
part of the developing relationship with Iran, we also engage
the Iranian Government on issues of concern to us, including human
rights, weapons of mass destruction and Iranian support for terrorism.
3. As a result of the revolution there was
a complete transformation in the UK's relations with Iran. Iran
changed from a co-operative ally to a country distrustful of and
at times hostile to the West. The UK's close association with
the Shah made the revolutionary Government of the new Islamic
Republic of Iran particularly distrustful of the UK. The absence
of an authoritative administration in the aftermath of revolution,
and Iranian attempts to export the revolution, created instability
and uncertainty in the region. There was a significant fall in
British exports, although some trade continued, and as Iranian
oil production dropped there were shortages in the oil market.
4. Britain recognised Bazargan's provisional
government in February 1979, hoping that it would establish stability.
After its fall in November 1979, the cultural and political antagonism
of Iran's new leaders towards Britain increased. The fact that
the United States and Britain had sold arms to Iran and thereby,
in the opposition's eyes, propped up the Shah's regime, came under
criticism. The occupation of the American Embassy, in November
1979 set off a chain of events which led to the Iranian Government
being unable to guarantee the safety of the British Embassy. All
but a skeleton staff were withdrawn in September 1980 and the
Embassy was put under the protection of Sweden.
5. The British Interests Section within
the Swedish Embassy was gradually expanded, and Iran continued
to have an Embassy in London headed by a Charge d'Affaires. By
1985 relations had improved. There were no longer Britons in jail
in Iran on charges of spying, and since the release of British
helicopter pilot Andrew Pyke in January 1982 the government had
pursued a policy of practical co-operation which had met with
some response, particularly with regard to trade. British policy
of strict neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war had also been noted.
The Iranian regime was divided in its attitude to Britain. It
came under attack from radical elements for any perceived sliding
towards the West, and traditional distrust of Britain's role in
the region was revived, but up to 1985 more pragmatic elements
gradually had their way. The British Government sought to persuade
the Iranian regime that it was in its interests to respect international
conventions (for example on human rights and terrorism), to accept
a peaceful settlement of the war with Iraq, and to curb attempts
to export revolution.
6. The detention of British citizens Roger
Cooper and Nicholas Nicola in December 1985, without trial or
proper consular access, was accompanied by a political campaign
against Britain and renewed problems with bilateral relations.
A new low was reached in may 1987 when the arrest of a member
of the staff of the Iranian Consulate in Manchester on charges
of shoplifting led to the retaliatory abduction in Tehran of the
Embassy Head of Chancery, Edward Chaplin. All staff were eventually
withdrawn from Tehran.
7. In the summer of 1988, Iran accepted
Security Council Resolution 598 calling for a ceasefire in the
Iran/Iraq war. The Iranian government began to tone down its revolutionary
fervour, to concentrate on reconstruction and economic development,
and to present a more reasonable face to the outside world. Within
this new policy framework, Iran sought to re-establish a more
stable relationship with the UK.
Encouraging Iran's new wish to improve its relations
with the West was strongly in British interests. The Foreign Secretary
Geoffrey Howe met Iranian Foreign Minister Velayati in New York
in September 1988, and in November 1988 agreement to resume full
diplomatic representation was announced. It was made clear that
the issue of Cooper's detention and the British hostages held
in Lebanon by groups under Iranian influence placed restrictions
on our broader relationship, and that we expected the Iranian
government to work for their release.
8. However on 14 February 1989, a statement
from Ayatollah Khomeini that the author of "The Satanic Verses"
and the publishers who had known the book's content were condemned
to death led to a deterioration in relations. The following day
the 15 Khordad Foundation offered to pay a reward to anyone who
killed Salman Rushdie. EC Foreign Ministers decided to withdraw
their Heads of Mission from Tehran and imposed a ban on high level
visits. The British Government went further and withdrew all UK-based
staff, leaving the Swedish Embassy to look after British interests
once again. The Iranians were requested to remove their Embassy
from London and nominate a protective power. In March 1989 Iran
severed diplomatic relations with the UK, on the basis that Britain
had not taken action to prevent insults to Islam and Islamic sanctities.
The Satanic Verses was published at a time when radicals within
the Iranian regime were unhappy at Iran's improving relations
with the West, and felt that the revolution was at risk. It offered
an opportunity to break relations with the UK and made it difficult
for any political group to oppose such a move given its significance
as an Islamic issue.
9. The absence of diplomatic relations left
the British Government with little opportunity to advance important
interests, in particular the release of Roger Cooper and the hostages
in Lebanon. We looked for ways of bridging the gap between the
Iranians and ourselves. The Iranians also quickly began to look
for ways to restore relations, rightly seeing their difficulties
with Britain as an impediment to normal economic relations with
the European Community. The release of Brian Keenan in August
1990 led to the breaking of the deadlock. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait
and the consequent crisis in the Gulf also made it desirable for
Britain and Iran, both of whom had roles to play in resolving
it, to re-establish substantive dialogue. Diplomatic relations
were resumed in September 1990, on the basis of our understanding
from public statements by Iranian officials that the Iranian government
would not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country
(a reference to the Rushdie case). However, the British Government
made it clear that it considered the fatwa a serious violation
of international law, and that we would not be thinking of sending
an Ambassador to Tehran until outstanding bilateral problems had
10. Following the release of the remaining
hostages in the Lebanon in 1991 (in which the efforts of Iran
were crucial), and the release of Cooper, we made some practical
improvements in bilateral relations such as the opening of a limited
visa service in Tehran. We initiated a dialogue to try to resolve
the problem of the fatwa against Mr Rushdie, including annual
meetings between the Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister Velayati
at the UN General Assembly in New York. Baroness Chalker, Minister
of State for Overseas Development, made a humanitarian visit to
Iran to see what help we could give to Iraqi refugees. We hoped
that closer ties would enable us to encourage moderation in Iranian
policies, and that there would be scope for fruitful co-operation
on issues such as refugees, Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same
time we worked to contain Iran's acquisition of weapons of mass
destruction and involvement in terrorism in co-operation with
our EU partners.
11. In December 1992 the EU (then the EC)
declared its desire for what came to be called a Critical Dialogue
with Iran, believing that outstanding problems could more easily
be resolved if we talked. In particular we sought assurances of
Mr Rushdie's safety, and an improvement in Iranian policy on human
rights and terrorism. Thereafter regular meetings were held between
the EU Troika and Iran, once a year at Ministerial level and once
every Presidency at Deputy Minister level. The EU believed that
the isolation of Iran would not help to achieve our objectives
and could be counter-productive, and therefore strongly opposed
measures taken by US Congress to improve an international trade
embargo through the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. (This difference
was largely resolved by the agreement brokered by the British
EU Presidency in May 1998 between the EU and the US Government,
whereby the US agreed to consider waivers for EU oil and gas companies
doing business with Iran).
12. Mykonos. In April 1997 a German Court
issued its verdict on the Mykonos case, in which a member of the
Iranian intelligence service was indicted for the murder of four
Iranian Kurds in Germany in 1992. The verdict stated that the
leadership in Tehran had issued instructions leading to the murders.
The Critical Dialogue was suspended and EU Heads of Mission were
recalled from Tehran for consultation.
13. However, the election of President Khatami
with a large majority in May 1997 gave us a chance to re-engage
Iran and achieve a more constructive relationship. We welcomed
Khatami's determination to pursue the establishment of civil society
and the rule of law, and his interest in promoting wider international
understanding, and believed that his government was likely to
bring about positive change in those areas of Iranian policy which
continued to concern us. We sought to encourage the process of
reform by increasing the level of bilateral and EU dialogue with
Iran. EU Heads of Mission returned to Iran in November 1997. Under
the UK presidency from January to June 1998, the EU initiated
a review of policy towards Iran and in July 1998 the first round
of a new comprehensive dialogue between the EU and Iran was held
14. The Sixth Majles convened on 27 May,
following elections in which reformists succeeded in gaining 190
of 290 seats. They pledged themselves to a programme of political,
social and economic reform. A key test of their ability to effect
reform was a debate planned for 6 August on the revision of the
restrictive press laws imposed by the previous, conservative Majles,
which helped trigger the closure of over 20 reform newspapers
in May 2000. This amendment was a key pillar of the reformist
pre-election manifesto. Supreme Leader Khamenei used his constitutional
powers to block the discussion, and urged the Majles to concentrate
for now on economic reform. The intervention proved a serious
blow to the reform programme, and brought into sharp relief the
nature of democracy in Iran. Further newspaper closures and arrests
of journalists followed. Several days of unrest broke out on 24
August in the western city of Khorramabad when hardline vigilantes
disrupted a student convention that had been authorised by the
reformist Minister of the Interior. Reformist parliamentarians
appealed to all students to respond calmly to violent provocation.
15. President Khatami reacted cautiously
to the conservative challenge, nevertheless expressing his disapproval
of the suppression of the Majles press law debate and the clampdown
on the reformist press. In a public statement in late August he
regretted his lack of control over the judiciary and certain elements
of the security forces, but reiterated his commitment to push
through reform, and his determination not to resign in the face
of limitations to his authority. But President Khatami risks radicalising
the losing the support of an electorate disappointed by the slow
pace of reform.
16. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO),
the dominant group of the National Council of Resistance in Iran
(NCRI), continues a campaign of terrorist attacks against the
regime in Iran. The MKO is based in Iraq and, having fought on
the Iraqi side in the Iran-Iraq war, lacks a popular base in Iran.
Both the MKO and NCRI feature on the US State Department list
of proscribed terrorist organisations.
17. Iran has sought since President Khatami's
election to ease its international isolation. President Khatami
has made the centrepiece of his foreign policy the Dialogue of
Civilisations. His aim is to promote greater understanding between
the Islamic and Western worlds. Relations with Gulf neighbours
are now well established, although a territorial dispute with
UAE over Abu Musa and the Tunb Islands remains unresolved. President
Khatami's government is committed to an improved relationship
with the EU, and he has paid official visits to France, Germany
and Italy. But relations with the US remain frozen in the face
of opposition from some on both sides to the opening a dialogue,
although a meeting in September between Majles Speaker Karroubi
and US Congressmen in New York may be a signal that both sides
are willing to explore the conditions under which relations could
18. Iran maintains a dialogue with her Central
Asian neighbours. Her interests in the region centre on the Caspian
Sea and the division of its resources. Iran shares our concerns
about the situation in Afghanistan and influence of the Taliban,
and continues to take a positive approach to achieving peace there.
The recent OIC peace initiative was launched under their Presidency.
Iran is also active in the battle against drug trafficking from
A Prosperous Market Economy
19. Iran is a diversified economy with a
good workforce and substantial natural resources. It is OPEC's
second largest oil producer; oil revenues are still by far the
main source of foreign exchange and the backbone of the state
budget. Iran has the second largest reserves of natural gas in
the world; it also has large mineral resources in addition to
oil and gas. It has the potential to develop into a fast-growing
and powerful Emerging Market, important to the wider regional
economy and commercially very significant to the UK.
20. But economic performance in the past
20 years has been disappointing. Living standards have deteriorated.
The population continues to grow rapidly and unemployment is a
growing problem. The economy has been performing poorly because
it has been handicapped by such things as the ownership of many
productive assets being in the hands of the state or the post-revolutionary
Foundations; high public spending on food and petroleum product
subsidies; distorted exchange rates and protectionist trade rules;
and some institutionalised antipathy to the private sector.
21. In addition Iran's external economic
and financial relations have been complicated by US sanctions.
These have increased the cost of Iran's access to oil technology,
denied US firms the opportunity to invest in Iran, and blocked
various commercially viable schemes for pipelines transiting Iran.
Sanctions have also created difficulties in Iran's debt management,
its relations with the IMF and World Bank, and its relations with
non-US foreign investors. But they have not been the main reason
for poor economic performance.
22. Under President Khatami Iran has begun
to move away from interventionist and nationalistic economic policies.
Some important reforms have been put in placenotably the
opening of the oil and gas sector to foreign investmentand
more have been under discussion, most urgently in 1998-99 when
low oil prices put the economy under additional pressure. The
Third Five Year Plan which took effect in early 2000and
indicates the Government's medium term economic policycontains
reformist commitments in a number of key areas and is a blueprint
for radical change towards a market based economy.
23. In practice the speed at which economic
reform is pushed ahead is likely to depend on the degree of support
in the Majles. The prospects for more rapid progress appear therefore
to have improved following the elections in spring 2000.
24. Economic reform is the key to faster
growth, increasing prosperity, and the creation of sufficient
jobs for the expanding workforce. The UK supports the efforts
of the Iranian Government to achieve reform. It welcomes international
involvement in the Iranian economy and favours a normal relationship
between Iran and the IMF and IBRD. The UK supported the two World
Bank loans to Iran. It welcomes the involvement of UK firms in
trade with and investment in Iran, and limited medium term ECGD
cover was recently resumed.
25. When the Foreign Secretary met with
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi at the UN General Assembly in
September 1998 they agreed to the exchange of Ambassadors, following
the public assurance by Kharrazi that the Iranian government would
not take any action to threaten the life of Mr Rushdie or anybody
associated with his work, and would not encourage anybody to do
so. Dr Kharrazi also dissociated the Iranian Government from the
bounty on Mr Rushdie's life. This represented the achievement
of the necessary assurances on Mr Rushdie's safety that we had
long sought. (Joint Statement attached).
26. The agreement reached in New York paved
the way for more constructive engagement with Iran. Our governments
established Ambassadors in each others' capitals in May 1999 as
agreed, and the two Foreign Ministers met again in New York in
September 1999. They agreed that there should be an exchange of
visits by Foreign Ministers. Dr Kharrazi visited London in January
2000 and held meetings with the Foreign Secretary and the Prime
Minister. A Joint Declaration was agreed on future cooperation.
Mr Raynsford, Minister of State for Housing and Construction at
the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions visited
Iran from 14-18 July. Mr Caborn, Minister of Trade, is due to
attend the Tehran International Trade Fair in early October.
27. On 15 September the Foreign Secretary
again met his Iranian counterpart in New York. The Foreign Secretary
reaffirmed UK's commitment to a constructive dialogue with Iran
aimed at encouraging and supporting reform. He also welcomed Dr
Kharrazi's suggestion that he visit Iran in 2001 as part of the
year of dialogue of civilisations.
UK Interests in Iran
28. The UK has an interest in a stable Iran,
enjoying good relations with neighbours and near neighbours, thus
acting as a force for stability in the region. Reform within Iran
is likely to lead to further progress towards full democracy,
freedom of speech and a more stable political climate with full
enforcement of the rule of law and an end to extra-judicial violence.
We would welcome progress towards the establishment of a civil
society with full protection for the rights of minorities, particularly
29. The emergence in Iran of a well-run,
diversified and dynamic market economy, fully integrated in the
global economy will contribute to a healthy bilateral economic
relationship. Iran is potentially a large and lucrative market
for UK investors and exporters. A prosperous Iran will be in the
interest of all its neighbours and contribute to regional economic
30. Iran is an important market for UK capital
goods manufacturers. It has 9 per cent of the world's oil reserves
and gas reserves second only to Russia. We estimate that up to
half of UK exports to Iran are for the oil and gas sector. Other
significant sectors include power, petrochemicals, healthcare,
mining, agriculture/food processing, water, telecommunications
and the automotive industry.
|UK exports (£m)||332
|UK imports (£m)||125
(* 2000 figures are Jan-July only)
31. In the league table of exporters to Iran the UK is
behind Germany, Italy, Japan and France. Our exports have been
hindered by bilateral political differences and the lack of ECGD
cover. However, our export figures do not show the significant
re-exports via Dubai and Oman. The reduction in UK exports to
Iran in 1999 is attributable to Iran's economic difficulties caused
by the low oil price earlier in the year.
32. Strategically placed, with a growing well educated
populace of 65 million and a neighbouring market place of 200
million plus, Iran's commercial potential within this region is
considerable. With the combination of the planned reforms by President
Khatami's government plus the upsurge in the price of oil, there
is evidence of a growing interest in Iran by British companies.
This year alone, Trade Partners UK's promotional programme will
be supporting five outward trade missions and three exhibitions.
This compares to three and two respectively in previous years.
33. The oil and gas sector is by far Iran's largest industrial
sector. A number of UK companies such as British Gas, Enterprise,
LASMO and BP are actively pursuing major business interests currently
offered by the Iranian authorities under a "buy back"
scheme. Shell Exploration, an affiliate of the Royal Dutch/Shell
Group, has already been awarded a project under this scheme to
develop two oil fields at a total cost of $800 million. Similar
projects have also been awarded to our EU competitors.
34. Limited medium term ECGD cover has recently been
resumed. The position will be reviewed at the end of the year
in the light of progress on a number of issues, including resolution
of pre-revolutionary debts. A bilateral Road Transport Agreement
has been agreed but not yet signed. Negotiations on an Investment
Promotion and Protection Agreement continue.
Specific Bilateral Cooperation
35. The UK has, since September 1998, initiated major
programmes of cooperation with the Iranian government against
drugs trafficking, and assistance with the refugee problem. These
both were identified by the Iranian government as areas of pressing
need, where we agreed with them that problems with an important
international dimension were being addressed by Iran with too
little international help.
36. Drugs. Iran is a key country on the heroin route
from Afghanistan to Europe. Iran makes a vigorous effort against
the drugs trade, with estimated seizures of 233 tonnes of opiates
in 1999, the highest in the world. They have effectively eradicated
illicit domestic opium poppy cultivation and the US has recently
certified Iran as a non-producer country. But this has been at
a cost: close to 3,000 Iranian border guards have died in the
past 20 years in clashes with the heavily armed Afghan drug convoys
which cross Iran. 36 Iranians were killed in one such clash on
2 November 1999.
37. In 1999, the FCO contributed £1.35 million to
the United Nations International Drug Control Programme's (UNDCP)
Iran programme. This included £350,000 to UNDCP in March
1999 to provide Iranian frontier personnel with 1,020 bullet proof
vests (agreed for export as an exception to the embargo by Mr
Battle and announced in a written answer on 25 March) and a £1
million contribution to the law enforcement component of the UNDCP
programme mainly to support Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan
and Pakistan. This has been used to purchase 50 Land Cruisers
and night vision equipment (produced in Iran). We also pledged
£150,000 bilateral assistance to focus on the western land
border exist controls with Turkey and airport controls, which
will assist in combating the onward drugs trade to Europe. The
Foreign Secretary announced in New York in September 2000 a further
£500,000 contribution to the UNDCP programme. We intend shortly
to conclude a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government
on cooperation against drugs trafficking.
38. Refugees. Iran currently hosts an estimated 1.4 million
refugees from Afghanistan, and an estimated 500,000 refugees from
Iraq. Combined, these numbers represent one of the largest refugee
problems faced by any country in the world. When the Permanent
Under-Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visited
Tehran in November 1999 he announced that the Department for International
Development had approved funding of £700,000 for a selection
of refugee projects including primary health care and education
services, through UNICEF and a variety of NGOs. DFID are continuing
their refugee programme with further projects in the current financial
year at a similar level to last year, when projects totalling
£1.4 million were approved.
39. In developing our relationship with Iran, we have
made clear to the Iranian Government that there remain a number
of important concerns for the UK over Iranian policies. These
include weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism.
(i) Weapons of Mass Destruction
40. In July 2000 Iran successfully tested a medium range
ballistic missile, Shahab III. We remain concerned that this project
could lead to the production of a missile capable of carrying
WMD warheads. Although Iran is a party to key arms control treaties
(notably the NPT and the Chemical Weapons Convention) and is actively
engaged in the international arms control process, there are persistent
reports of continuing Iranian efforts to develop weapons of mass
destruction. Iran's civil nuclear programme, which it is alleged
masks an illegal nuclear weapons programme, has been in existence
since the time of the Shah. Iran has admitted developing chemical
weapons in response to missile and CW attacks by Iraq during their
war. The UK has a bilateral dialogue with Iran on non-proliferation
issues. The annual report on strategic export controls gives details
of current commitments the UK maintains in respect of export licencing
to Iran. These include an embargo on the sale of all items in
the military list, and any item which might be used by the Iranian
(ii) Human Rights
41. The UK remains concerned about several human rights
issues in Iran, as outlined in the most recent annual report by
the UN Special Representative for Iran, Maurice Copithorne. These
include opaque and unfair judicial procedures, the continued use
of inhumane punishments, the excessive use of the death penalty,
attacks on freedom of speech including a recent crack-down on
the reformist press, and discrimination against women and minorities.
However, we also recognise that the government of President Khatami
has made improvements in a number of these areas, and that his
programme for the establishment of the rule of law and a civil
society would, if fully implemented, remove many of our concerns.
The most recent resolution passed at the UN Commission on Human
Rights in April (tabled by the EU) recognised progress, but drew
attention to the remaining areas of concern. Most notably, we
and our EU partners have expressed our concern to the Iranian
authorities over continuing persecution of the Baha'i minority,
and the detention, trial, and sentencing on 1 July of 10 Jews
and two Muslims to prison terms of between four and 13 years for
alleged espionage offences. On appeal these were reduced (on 21
September) to sentences of between two and nine years. Although
a step in the right direction, we remain concerned by their conviction.
The Foreign Secretary recently raised the case with the Iranian
Foreign Minister in New York on 15 September.
41. We have long sought to move towards a more engaged
dialogue with the Iranian government on human rights issues, but,
in common with our EU partners, have insisted that this should
be on the basis of renewed cooperation with the UN human rights
machinery (as we expect of all States). Specifically this means
renewed cooperation with the UN Special Representative Maurice
Copithorne and a resumption of his visits to Iran to report on
the situation there.
(iii) Middle East Peace Process/Terrorism
43. We continue to press the Iranians to take a more
constructive attitude to the Middle East Peace Process, and in
particular to use their influence in the region to discourage
acts of violence by groups opposed to it. We remain concerned
at Iranian support for such groups.
44. Our Embassy in Tehran consists of 18 UK-based staff
(to be increased shortly we hope to 23 following agreement between
the Foreign Secretary and Dr Kharrazi in January 2000 to a ceiling
of 25) and 90.5 locally-engaged staff (including 16 labourers/gardeners
and 19 guards). We hope that a British Council presence, aimed
primarily at support for educational services, will be established
in Tehran very soon.
45. A total of six (UK based and Iranian) Embassy staff
members are assigned to commercial work. The unique conditions
of the market and the difficulty of gaining access to sources
of accurate information mean that the section can only provide
a limited service. But a major part of their work is to raise
the awareness of potential commercial opportunities. Trade missions
and exhibitions are a good means of developing contacts as well
as to improve UK business understanding of the Iranian market.
UK based staff also have the responsibility of engaging the Iranian
authorities in support of British companies encountering bureaucratic
obstacles, and of ensuring that business practices are fair and
46. The Embassy in Tehran received 25,000 applications
for visas last year, not including applications for most kinds
of student and tourist visas. Applicants for such visas are obliged
to apply at neighbouring posts, given the present number of visa
staff working in Tehran. We would like to have extra staff to
meet the demand in full, but are constrained by the ceiling on
staff numbers imposed by the Iranian authorities. The increase
in the ceiling agreed in January 2000 will enable us to improve
the visa service, but it is still not sufficient to match the
demand. We hope that as the relationship with Iran develops the
ceiling will be relaxed, enabling us to offer a full visa service.
29 September 2000
Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
By letter dated 20 March 2000, the Clerk to the Foreign Affairs
Committee sought a note from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
on the use of punishments such as amputations in Iran following
an article on this subject in the Sunday Times of 12 March.
Most of the punishments referred to in the article are Hudud
punishments (amputations, executions etc) and still occur in Iran.
Hudud punishments are allowed under Sharia law, which forms the
basis of the Iranian legal system, as well as the legal systems
of some other countries in the region. The latest report of the
UN Commission for Human Rights Special Representative for Iran,
Maurice Copithorne quoted an Iranian newspaper report from July
1999 that 21 men had been sentenced to amputation of fingers over
a two week period, and reports of other Hudud punishments.
Our concern at these types of punishment, and other human
rights issues in Iran, have been brought home to Iranian Ministers
and officials. The Secretary of State has discussed human rights
on each of the three occasions that he has met his Iranian counterpart,
Dr Kharrazi. On 6 March the Secretary of State and the Minister
of State, Peter Hain, raised human rights with Deputy Foreign
We also work closely on human rights issues with our EU partners.
A major part of this cooperation is the tabling of twice yearly
UN resolutions on the human rights situation in Iran, the most
recent of which was adopted by the United Nationals General Assembly
on 17 December 1999 and called on Iran to take the necessary steps
to end the use of torture, the practice of amputation, stoning
and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments. A further
EU-sponsored resolution is currently being prepared for consideration
at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in April.
The video referred to in the "Sunday Times" article
contains footage from 1985 and 1991 and was edited and circulated
by the National Council for the Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an
umbrella organisation in which the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq Organisation
(MKO) is the dominant group. The MKO wages a terrorist campaign
inside Iran from its bases in Iraq. As Mr Hain recently said in
an answer to a written PQ the background and methods of the MKO/NCRI
do not permit them to speak with authority on democracy or human
rights. But the nature of the source of this information does
not make the practices described any more acceptable or de-bar
us from raising them with the Iranians.